The Macmillan Way West is a 102 mile long-distance footpath that runs from the main Macmillan Way at Castle Cary in Somerset and the South West Coast Path at Barnstaple in North Devon. From Castle Cary, where Douglas Macmillan spent his early life, the route travels west to Somerton and then across the "big sky" country of the Somerset Levels. After crossing the Bridgewater and Taunton canal and passing through the busy little town of North Petherton, the route starts to climb on to the south eastern egde of the Quantocks. The Quantocks offers the outstanding viewpoint of Cothelstone Hill before the route descends to the pretty town of Williton. From here the route heads west to the popular village of Dunster and soon onto Exmoor and Dunkery Beacon. Crossing Exmoor the route enters Tarka country to reach the banks of the River Taw and the final destintion in Barnstaple and a link with the South West Coast Path.
Our journey begins at the house in Upper High Street where Douglas Macmillan spent his early years in the old part of Castle Cary. Look out for buildings like the Market House, the Round House and the old George Inn. The route then runs along the foot of steep, grassy Lodge Hill, below where the castle used to stand. The route to Somerton crosses largely flat country and is an excellent introduction to the diverse landscape we see on the way to Barnstaple. On leaving Castle Cary, the route soon follows the line of the infant River Cary to Perry's Bridge and then a series of tracks to pass close by Keinton Mendeville and on through the pretty village of Charlton Adam. Now the route heads across fields to the north of Kingsdon wood and joins the Huish Road to reach Somerton.
Somerton is an attractive market town with all the amenities for the Macmillan Way walker. It has a wealth of lovely old stone houses and shops and an impressive octagonal Market Cross. The route from Somerton follows country lanes and tracks to reach Long Sutton, where the village green is surrounded by a range interesting listed buildings. The route now enters the Somerset Levels and soon joins the north bank for the River Yeo, which it follows for the next two miles before joining the River Parrett at Huish Bridge to reach Langport.
The route does not pass through the centre of Langport, but it is only a short diversion if you are in need of provisions, as the next shops are in North Petherton, some 11 miles head! The route continues to folow the north bank of the River Parrett across the Somerset Levels, which lie mainly below sea level. Drainage works were started by the 15th century, but the present network of drainage direches were constructed between the 17th and 19th century. The route crosses the river at Burrowbridge, with Burrow Mump to the right. Although there was once a castle here, the ruins on hilltop are those of an uncompleted church. The route now follows the south bank of the river for around 3 miles to Moorland Court Farm where it turns south west to cross first the railway, then the Bridgewater and Taunton Canal and finally the M5 motorway to reach North Petherton.
North Petherton lies in the area between the lower slopes of the Quantocks and the river Parrett and is the last place to stock up on supplies before the climb of the Quantocks commences. The route heads out past the old King's Cliff Quarry through King's Cliff Wood into the Quantock Hills. After crossing Broomfield Common, the route arrives in Broomfield, which was described by the Somerset historian Collinson, writing in the 18th century as being "... beautifully varied, with swelling hills and deep romantic vales, and commanding a great variety of pleasing landscapes and very extensive prospects." From Broomfield, the route descends to Raswell Farm and then climbs towards the viewpoint of Cothelstone Hill at 332m. Before reaching the summit, the route splits with the main route descending to the village of Cothelstone and the "High Level Route" going over Cothelstone Hill and Lydeard Hill to rejoin the main route at Triscombe Combe.
Cothelstone is a tiny village where the church, houses and farm buildings all cluster round a beautiful old Elizabethan Manor house. After leaving the village, the route crosses Cothelstone Park to reach West Bagborough, where it leaves the road and continues below Bagborough Hill to the hamlet of Triscombe. Now comes the climb up Triscombe Combe to re-join the High Level Route at the top and traverse along the spine of Great Hill to reach the junction of routes at Crowcombe Park Gate. Here the route turns north west to pass to the right of Hurley Beacon and on to Thorncombe Barrow before descending Bicknoller Combe to Bicknoller.
Bicknoller is the junction of the Macmillan Way West and Coleridge Way and both trails follow the same route over the West Somerset Railway to Sampford Brett. Here the two trails part and the route continues on to Williton. Williton is the adminstrative centre for the area and offers all the amenities that may have been lacking as the route crossed the Quantock Hills. On leaving the town, you reach the halfway point of the walk as the route first heads to the small hamlets of Lower Stream and Higher Stream before reaching the hamlet of Torre. Here a short diversion from the route will allow a vist to Cleeve Abbey. From Torre, the route follows country lanes to Lower Roadwater and then heads out across fields again to Withycombe. The route now climbs to the summit of Withycombe Hill (222m) and continues along the spine of the hill to Bat's Castle Settlement, an iron age hillfort above Dunster. Now the route descends to the popular village of Dunster.
Dunster is an exceptionally picturesque little town which is dominated by the impressively towered Dunster Castle. The route weaves through the small town passing many attractions, such as the watermill, castle and Yarm Market. On leaving the town, the route now climbs Grabbist Hill and continues along the ridge to a junction, which offers a two mile detour to the seaside resort of Minehead. The main route continues to Wootton Common (295m) before decending to the small village of Wootton Courtenay. The route now starts the ascent of Dunkery Hill to the high point of Dunkery Beacon at 519 m. From the Beacon, the route continues heading west across Exmoor passing Bendels Barrows to join the road at Alderman's Barrow. It is soon onto the moor again following the line of an old tramway over Elsworthy to Warren Farm and Qarren Bridge where it crosses the River Exe. The route now follows the line of the Exe to Great Ashcombe where we recommend a detour along the route of the Two Moors Way to stay overnight in Simonsbath.
Simonsbath offers overnight accommodation and refreshment to walkers on both the Macmillan Way West and Two Moors Way and is a popular resting place. On re-joining the route at Great Ashcombe, it heads west to Exe Head and on to Chains Barrow, where it turns south over Goat Hill to join up with the Tarka Trail at Mole's Chamber. There follows a short stretch along the road before the route crosses Whitefield Down and descends to the hamlet of Whitefield. The route now leaves the moorland and enters the gentler "Tarka Trail" country, following woodland trails to Lower Hall and then Newtown Bridge. The route now follows the course of the River Bray through Reepham and Blakewell Woods to West Blakewell, where it rejoins the road to reach East Buckland.
The route continues to follow the road from East Buckland, first to West Buckland and then on to Taddiport, before crossing the stream and entering Tordown Cleave. The route emerges at Sandick Cross and turns north to follow the lane to Gunn, where it is back folowing tracks and fields south west to Birch and then Stepfort. From here, it continues in the same direction, crossing the main A361 to reach the pretty village of Landkey. The route skirts the southern edge of the village before crossing Landkey Bridge and entering the village at the western end near the church. The route now heads out past the quarry at Lower Venn and then follows the southern bank of the river to Bishop's Tawton. It follows the main A377 for a short distance before continuing along Pill Lane and joining the east bank for the River Taw, which it follows to Barnstaple
Barnstaple is the premier town in North Devon and offers a range of attractions, including a traditional Pannier Market. It marks the end of the 102 mile trek from Castle Cary over the Somerset Levels, the Quantocks and Exmoor, but as it links to the South West Coast Path, there is plenty more walking on offer!.
The nearest railway stations to the route are listed below.
Castle Cary is approx 1 mile from the start of the walk. It is about 2 hours by train from London Paddington, depending on the time of day of travel.
Barnstaple is en-route at the end of the walk. It is about 4 hours from London Paddington.
The National Rail Map provides a map of the rail network for you to plan your journey.
The nearest National Express long distance coach stops are listed below.
From Castle Cary: Shepton Mallet (7.5 miles), Glastonbury (10 miles), Wells (10.5 miles)
From Barnstaple: Barnstaple (0 miles)
National Express has a route network with over 1,000 UK destinations. The best value tickets will be secured with advance booking.
Castle Cary is easily accessible by car, being about 10km from the A303 and less than 50km from the M5 motorway at Taunton.
We may be able to arrange car parking at your first nights accommodation for the duration of your walking holiday. This will be subject to availability and may incur a small extra charge.
Using the train to return to the start is the best option as both Castle Cary and Barnstaple have railway stations. The journey takes between 2 and 3 hours with the need to change trains at Exeter St David's station.
Please contact us for a tailored itinerary.
£708.00 per person based on two people sharing a double/twin room.
March to October.
We specialise in providing walking holidays in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Pembrokeshire and Somerset. We are enthusiastic about outdoor pursuits and have experienced climbing, canoeing, skiing, caving and potholing and windsurfing as well as walking throughout the UK, France, Spain, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand.
We use our experience to provide self-guided, pack-free walking holidays, tailored to the requirements and abilities of our clients.